Toronto’s Factory Theatre Age of Arousal: a play of capricious English accents at lightning pace
Age of Arousal: the title of the play by Linda Griffith, playing now at the Factory Theatre, arouses interest in itself. Not having any previous knowledge of the play going into it, I was extremely curious as to what sort of story was to unfold. I wish I could say, after over two hours in the theatre, I now had a better idea of the story and the arguments contained in Age of Arousal, but I could only decipher fragments amongst the sped up text and hollow quips.
My best understanding is that Age of Arousal follows the story of a school for “Odd Women” near the beginning of the suffragette movement in the UK. Women are empowered and chained by the rules they impose on themselves and the struggle for independence is not fought just against society, but inside each character.
Though these themes are extremely interesting and relevant, it was hard to catch most of the dialogue due to the constant lightning speed at which the actors were speaking. With the play running at a bit over two hours, I can understand why they would need to impose such a pace, but it left me trying to fill in the blanks of what was going on throughout the entire show. The capricious English accents and frequent overlapping of the dialogue further hindered the audience’s comprehension, leaving us trailing far behind the action.
Whether or not this was a direct result of the difficulty in hearing the text or not, the action seemed held together by loose threads of consistency and rationality. Hit and miss gimmicks were mingled amongst crude love scenes and arguments that were near impossible to follow at times, creating a sense of an unfinished product.
Amid all this, a lot of the times the characters seemed to take neither themselves nor their circumstances seriously. Their apathy was infectious, making it hard for me to care much about what befell them, tragic or joyous.
The exception to this was the step sister-esque pair played by Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Juno Rinaldi, who successfully walked the fine line between characterized comedy and honest humanity. The two ladies also deserves praise for the only truly heart wrenching scene of the evening, when Armour-Ostroff admits to living as a cross dresser and begs for her reluctant sister’s forgiveness.
Overall, I found production unfocused and unclear. Scenes passed without any comprehensible relevance and characters flip-flopped from one extreme to the other, most often fulfilling the stereotypes they were proclaiming to have broken.
Though I do believe that a thought provoking script and concept were buried somewhere under the excess, the brief glimpses I got of it weren’t enough to have a clear understanding and I left with not much of a better idea of the show than I had come in with.
- Age of Arousal is playing at the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) until November 8th
- Shows run Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm, with matinees on Sunday and Wednesday
- Tickets are $25-$35, and can be purchased through the box office or online
Photo of the cast of Age of Arousal taken by Rachael McCaig